Dear Premier Rankin,
Hello, my name is Kendall Worth, and as you may know, I have been writing about poverty for the Nova Scotia Advocate for some time now.
First, I want to congratulate you for becoming the new premier after Stephen McNeil stepped down. It is the hope of me and those who I advocate for that you will look into the Employment Services and Income Assistance (ESIA) transformation project started by Community Services under Stephen McNeil.
Since the transformation was first announced in 2013 community members in general have been wondering, is there really an ESIA transformation happening? All we have really seen are two very small increases, and some improvements. Through this whole time of so-called ESIA transformation we continue to see a system that does not care if income assistance recipients bills and rent payments get behind.
The Standard Household Rate as of January 1st, 2020 was one small step in the right direction, because before that started, say if your rent and power bill only came to $435 a month per say you then would only get $435 instead of what was then the $535 shelter allowance). Now under the new standard household rate you automatically receive the full $850.00 a month.
Also two other steps in the right direction that happened during these past few years is that the child support clawback from income assistance have ended and recipients who have part-time jobs supplementing their income are now allowed to keep more of their earnings.
Here is the last story I did on this topic. Kendall Worth: Income Assistance transformation delivered next to nothing of what it promised, and if you click on this link you will also see a reference to a previous article I have written on this topic.
Throughout this whole period of so-called ESIA transformation income assistance recipients have continued to see evidence that when you try to talk to someone in government about issues you are having on income assistance no one wants to listen. For example,this letter about EI and CPP disability clawbacks: Open letter to Premier Stephen McNeil: Stop the EI and CPP Disability clawbacks for people on income assistance.
Anyway, Premier Rankin, throughout my journalism work I write a lot about how the mental health in the community of people I advocate for is affected by bureaucratic nonsense and systematic problems.
As well, that $850 a month standard household rate they have to live on is causing them mental health issues as a result of not being able to live their lives like normal human beings.
I mean, if you were to look through the ESIA Policy Manual and the ESIA regulations at Community Services you would see that there are special needs allowances available for income assistance recipients. However the people who have no choice but to live on that system have to go through bureaucratic nonsense and systematic problems in order to qualify for those extra allowances.
There need to be further increases in the income assistance allowances. Everyone, including income assistance recipients, should be able to shop in grocery stores rather than rely on the food banks.
Also, there needs to be collaboration between the department of Community Services and the mental health system if the ESIA transformation wants to work on social inclusion.
One major complaint of income assistance recipients is feeling socially isolated because they do not have money to invest into social activities in order to get out of their apartments and have a life.
I will end this letter by saying that hopefully you will do a better job than Stephen McNeil ever did in paying attention to the needs of those living in poverty.
PS. – Also see A letter to Minister Randy Delorey with two simple ideas that will help poor people tremendously, for yet other issues that affect the ESIA recipient community that need to be addressed.
Kendall Worth is an award-winning anti-poverty activist who lives with disabilities and tries to make ends meet on income assistance.
Check out our new community calendar!
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!